this speech during DEMO Africa 2014:
Welcome to Nigeria, the most populous country and the largest economy
in Africa. Welcome to Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, a vibrant
mega-city and our melting pot. And for those of you, for whom it is
your first time in Africa, welcome to Africa, the rising continent.
Nigeria is particularly delighted to be hosting the third edition of
Demo Africa, arguably the most exciting place for African start ups to
be. Securing the hosting rights to this event this year is indeed a
validation of the Federal Government's renewed focus on the ICT
industry in general and the software development industry in
Africa is indeed rising but this has not always been the case.
On May 13th 2000, The Economist, an international current affairs
magazine, had on its cover page a silhouette of the African continent,
within it was the image of an armed guerrilla fighter; its caption
read: "The Hopeless Continent". Within the pages of that edition, the
prognosis on Africa encapsulated the prevailing beliefs held not only
by the majority of those living outside its borders, but also by those
that considered themselves 'trapped' within it. Africa – a starving,
poor, disease ridden, fractured, war-torn, corrupt, dying mass of
humanity … described by former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as a
"scar on the conscience of the world".
Fast forward a decade; December 3rd 2011, the cover page of The
Economist bears the image of a boy running across a savannah landscape
at sunrise, flying a rainbow coloured kite shaped in the image of the
African continent. The caption reads: "Africa Rising". Within its
pages the magazine paints a scenario of dynamism, resilient
entrepreneurial activity, fledging…yet growing economies, nascent…yet
stabilising democracies, a population getting healthier and more
educated, an expanding middle class signifying a potential to even out
the distribution of wealth. An Africa, that is "getting its act
together". 54 countries of different ethnicity, culture, language and
different levels of development, home to 1.1bn people, the second
fastest growing regional economy (second to Asia) and home to more
than half of the world's fastest growing economies.
But not without its challenges, which IBM has encapsulated and coined
as Africa's Grand Challenges. These include education, access to
water, energy, healthcare, financial inclusion, public safety and
transport and agriculture.
The combination of an Africa Rising and one that still has to overcome
challenges represents a significant opportunity for African start-ups
especially those in the tech sector.
Mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa are forecasted to exceed
635 million by the end of this year (2014) and predicted to rise to
around 930 million by the end of 2019. The increase in the number of
mobile subscribers has fuelled increases in mobile internet use in
Africa and we are considered to be at the cusp of a mobile internet
revolution. Predictions are that mobile internet use in Africa will
increase twenty fold in the next five years … this is double the
estimated growth rate in the rest of the world. Lower priced devices
(in particular smartphones and tablets), increase investment in
network infrastructure, and increase availability of spectrum for
mobile broadband, are among the factors that will drive this growth.
One report that highlights this potential predicts that the Internet
can contribute up to 300 billion United States dollars to Africa's GDP
by 2025; and this is from an estimated 18 billion in 2013. This
translates directly to opportunities to generate income, to create
wealth, to create jobs, new business opportunities, economic
expansion, etcetera. The very opportunities African governments are
looking for and need to transform their economies and the economic
lives of their populations.
Over the next two days we will witness 40 African start-ups pitch
their solutions to these great opportunities and challenges with a
hope to secure funding and support to take their ideas and innovations
to the next level. I understand that in the two years of Demo Africa,
alumni have generated over $8m worth of investments, businesses and
partnerships. This is how you create jobs, new business opportunities,
expand economies, improve social well being of citizens.
Importantly, these outcomes also speak directly to our 'companies and
not code' philosophy in the Ministry of Communicaiton Technology. It
is good to show prowess in software development but it is even better
to develop businesses and companies that are powered by that software.
The recent IPOs of Twitter and Alibaba are testimonies of what is
I can't imagine that it is too often that you get this level of
government participation in DEMOs around the world. And this is
because government, innovation and entrepreneurship are rarely
mentioned in the same breath. But governments, indeed African
governments have an important role to play in catalysing the start up
industry as evidenced in the US and of course Israel.
The Nigerian government has done and will continue to do her bit to
support the software development industry
We are contributing to the development of a robust pipeline of
start-ups with our industry focussed Techlaunchpad software
competitions and our IDEA incubators and accelerators (last time in
this hall was to graduate 7 companies out of the hub). Today we have
added 70 start-ups to this fledgling but vibrant ecosystem and 4 IDEA
incubatees have emerged finalists for Demo Africa 2014.
In the next few days we will be conducting the first close of the
government seeded IT Innovation Fund. Government has committed $9m as
seed capital to this fund to be managed by EchoVC and we are literally
a month or so away from making our first investment in a number of
Nigerian/African tech start ups.
But there is still a lot to be done, infrastructure to be built to
connect more and more Africans to the internet, more ideas to be
birthed, more companies to be nurtured and more investments to be made
in these companies. African governments must support and sustain this.
I wish all the finalists well. I know this has been an exciting but
tough journey, but you have a great product, you have been extremely
well prepared to make your pitch, come up here and blow the judges
away, All the very best of luck.
Finally I would like to thank visitors from all over the world for
taking an objective view of the ebola virus disease risk and choosing
to travel to Nigeria for this important event. As we speak Nigeria is
not treating any cases of Ebola but we remain vigilant in the face of
the heart wrenching situations in other West African countries and are
doing everything we can to ensure that we remain ebola free.